Archive for the ‘General’ category

Misrepresentations of Calvinism Do, Indeed, Cause Some to Look More Deeply Into Reformed Teachings

February 21, 2007

No one likes to be misrepresented. Especially if you have carefully thought out why you believe certain things, it is frustrating to hear these beliefs mischaracterized. This is true in the natural realm, as people involved in politics can attest (the political conservatives I know are all sick of being painted as hard-hearted money-grubbers and those more politically liberal tire of being thought of as empty-headed communists). In terms of religious belief, we at Strange BaptistFire have been particularly concerned with the mischaracterizations in regards to Reformed theology coming from within the Baptist community. One consolation we Calvinists have, however, when straw men in our name are erected and knocked down, is that our strong convictions concerning the sovereignty of God allow us to confess that He is in control, so that we do not have to worry- trusting that the truths we insist upon cannot be fully and finally obscured.

So when we hear Reformed exegesis misrepresented, those holding to Calvinistic beliefs will often mention that God is using even the falsehood we hear for His glory, and that the outrageous comments made by some anti-Calvinist teachers will certainly cause some people to look into Reformed theology and immediately recognize the dishonesty in the presentations they have previously heard, thus becoming more open to the teachings of God’s sovereign grace in our salvation.

In order to demonstrate that the consolation mentioned above is more that merely wishful thinking, in this post I am presenting an account written by Evan Stewart, a friend of mine from Kosmosdale Baptist Church. (more…)


Where are you headed?

February 2, 2007

Have we lost the gospel?” “Why even raise this question, knowing that it will inevitably provoke the angst of some brothers and sisters whom I respect and tempt them to dismiss me as a crank or some kind of helpless malcontent? I do so because it is simply too important to leave unaddressed. Too much is at stake. The glory of God in the salvation of sinners is at stake. So is the eternal destiny of many who may think that they are right with God but who are merely religious (Matthew 7:21-23).”

Amen to that, Tom. We are in a battle here. We cannot stand aside with our theological ‘i’s dotted and ‘t’s crossed while the gospel goes down the tubes. We must be active, not passive, in recovering and proclaiming the true gospel if we are to have any sort of chance in this war on truth.

For example…

When are we going to challenge those people who claim to believe the bible, claim to love sound theology, and yet attend churches where these convictions are not taught or emphasized?

When are we going to visit the pastors of the churches in our own neighborhood (SBC particularly) to specifically exhort them to recover the truth of the gospel? Even having the boldness to call the pastor, the pastor, to repentance or even salvation, if necessary.

When are we going to pull over, bible in hand, and plead with the pastor to recover the truth of the gospel when we drive by the churches with signs such as, ‘give Jesus a chance’?

When are we going to stop waffling with our clearly-lost-but-think-their-saved buddies just because they attend some form of a church down the road which does not hold fast to the truth of the gospel?

When are we going to call those to account who clearly have political ambitions, or who talk themselves up as having firm convictions until they are challenged by someone popular or someone whom they admire?

When are we going to press people to stop talking about reforming their clearly backslidden church instead of standing up and doing something about it until the church either recovers or asks them to leave?

Simply put, folks, if we don’t get out of our comfort zone with the firm understanding that that this society (church-society) is going to reject us as ‘unloving’ when we attempt to hold others accountable to sound doctrinal beliefs; if we don’t realize that and place it aside for the cause of Christ, we’re going to lose the gospel, if we haven’t already…

Thanks, Tom, for this reminder. I pray that we will head your warning, myself included.

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

January 31, 2007

The doctrines of grace are divisive. How many times have we heard that when Calvinism comes to church, people are divided? Well, “duh,” the doctrines of grace contradict the naturally synergistic mind of men, and the noetic effects of sin still abide in all of God’s children. (more…)

And Now For Something Completely Different

January 31, 2007


HT: Calvinist Gadfly

Determinism, Chance, and Freedom

January 25, 2007

This was mentioned in Dr. Vines’ sermon. I believe he called Calvinists “hard determinists.” In reality, the WCF implicitly selects for soft, not hard determinism, and in at least one article (9.1) it may be construed to opt for neither determinism or indeterminism. Moreover, hard determinism itself is a minority position in Reformed theology. (And for those wanting to oppose Calvin to Calvinism, you may do so when (a) you trace the full trajectory of his thinking and do more than prooftext from the Institutes, and (b) you place him in the context of the whole of the Reformed tradition. He is not and has never been the sole standard by which the Reformed tradition is to be judged).

Determinism, Chance and Freedom

by John M. Frame

[“Determinism, Chance and Freedom,” for IVP Dictionary of Apologetics.]

Determinists believe that every event (or every event in a certain category) has a cause that makes it happen exactly as it happens. Among the varieties of determinism are the views of (1) Plato, who held that one’s ethical choices are determined by his view of what is good, (2) B. F. Skinner, who believed that stimuli, dispositions and motives govern all human behavior. (3) Democritus, Hobbes, Spinoza, and many others, who have held that every event in the universe is determined by a physical cause. Of special interest to us are (4) theological determinists, who hold that all events occur exactly as God has foreordained them. These would include Calvin and others in his tradition. The classic exposition of theological determinism is Jonathan Edwards’ Freedom of the Will. Note that it is possible to be a determinist in sense (4) without being a determinist in sense (3). That seems to be the position of the Westminster Confession of Faith, which says in 3.1 that “God did… ordain whatsoever comes to pass,” but also says in 9.1 that man’s will “is neither forced, nor, by any absolute necessity of nature, determined to good, or evil” (compare 5.2). (more…)

Jacob Vernet – Lessons In Latitudinarianism

January 1, 2007

“We have no creed but the Bible.”
“Baptists use confessions descriptively, not prescriptively.
“Local church autonomy is an absolute.”
___________ violates “religious liberty.”
___________ violates “soul competency.”
___________ violates “priesthood of the believer.”
___________ violates “historic Baptist principles.”


If you don’t believe _______, _______, and _______, then you are to be disfellowshipped, even if these items exceed the parameters of our shared confession.

Who among us Baptists has not heard or read these ideas or exact words in Baptist politics in the past few decades? Why do we hear them?

We hear them because there is some truth to each one, yet there is another manner in which each objection can be taken in a misleading direction. We believe in Sola Scriptura. We use confessions, and Baptist history is littered with prescriptive and descriptive uses of confessions. We believe in local church autonomy, but we reserve the right to reprove our neighbors and, as a last resort, even disfellowship a church. On the other hand each of these principles can be abused.

In this article, I hope to elaborate a bit on the old adage that those who do not listen to history are doomed to repeat it themselves. Baptists are notoriously insular at times. One of the current concerns of Southern Baptists has, in the past few years, been the attitude on the part of other Southern Baptists that, “as the SBC goes, so goes the rest of evangelicalism.” On the other hand, there are those who have expressed concern about “Baptist identity” (defined by them in, for example, the IMB’s new missionary guidelines). In response, some have accused them attempting to so narrow the parameters of cooperation that they exclude all who do not share their beliefs from service, while at the same time accepting their support for missions.


The Sandy Creek Tradition in Baptist History

December 30, 2006

The latest edition of the Founders Journal is hot off the presses. In order to obtain a copy head to to the subscriptions page.

In this issue Dr. Tom Nettles reproduces his excellent article on Shubal Stearns from Volume 2 of his new series on Baptist history, The Baptists. I would highly recommend that you get this series if you do not already own it.

In the second article, I have written an article on the Sandy Creek tradition in its sociological context. As a Calvinist, I have a doctrine of common grace as well as sovereign placement in history, and I think that, rather than perpetually rehashing confessions and written theologies, at times we might do better to place those individuals and groups/traditions at issue in their proper context in their time and place. God also uses these factors to shape these traditions, and we would never seek to interpret Scripture without some basic understanding of those same factors. This is why I am thankful to men like Richard A. Muller, who have not been afraid to challenge some prevailing theories of the past 150 odd years about the era of Protestant Orthodoxy, for he and his peers have done an excellent job in re-examining that period in not only the theological writing, but also the sociological and polemical context of that period. The result has been an overturning of the prevailing historical theses of the past – studies Dr. Vines, Dr. Caner, Dr. Patterson, and others would do well to carefully consider in trying to differentiate early Calvinist thinking from allegedly “Bezian” Calvinism or “Dortian” Calvinism. If they wish to dispute Dr. Muller and Dr. R. Scott Clark, for example, they should produce material that analysizes their work and rebuts it. I would highly recommend folks here obtain a copy of Protestant Scholasticism: Essays in Reassessment (which, I believe, is available @

Here is the introduction to my article; my desire is not so much to commit to a particular, unrevisable thesis; rather my goal in this article is to encourage students and teachers/professors of Baptist history to widen the scope of their considerations of the Separate Baptist tradition in some as yet uncharted directions. Hopefully, somebody will “run with it.” Because, for whatever reason I can’t get footnotes to work properly here, I’m linking to Triablogue, my “home” blog.

See: Triablogue.